“What Peter really wanted to see was the world arranged in happy couples. In remembrance of him, please fall in love, celebrate marriages, birthdays and all possible parties and events, bring little people into the world, laugh with them, play with them and ensure that they always feel loved and protected – as Peter always did; and so he will carry on living in our hearts.”
Someone remarked recently that it seems quite a few people took seriously what I said in my little speech for Peter’s memorial. Of course, the two weddings I attended in the past two weeks were both planned long before Peter’s death, and he had been looking forward to attending both of them. To me it felt wholly inconceivable that he was not present – at least not physically, charismatically, charmingly present as he should have been.
First there was Joseph and Emma’s wedding in Michigan – Joseph, my sister Amy’s son, our first godchild, after Peter and I had just lost the second baby before Christopher was born, and Peter took his responsibilities as a godfather very seriously. Peter never got a chance to meet Emma in person, but I’m sure he would have loved her too. I kept imagining him having a serious talk with his godson about bringing Emma flowers and making sure she always feels appreciated, because Peter was convinced that Amy didn’t have enough flowers in her life and never received anything like the appreciation she deserved from the men in her life. I could imagine Peter keeping watch that Emma didn’t get lost or feel overwhelmed in my large, chaotic family, just as he always watched out for Sara too. I kept waiting for Peter to finally appear somewhere on the edge of the crowd.
Because both Amy and Peter were so conspicuously missing from this wedding, along with beloved grandparents on both sides, Emma and Joseph hung pictures of departed loved ones from the trees in the apple orchard where the ceremony took place. As I had the great honor of leading the ceremony, from where I was standing I could see Peter’s folder fluttering from one of the apple trees, so I was able to feel more peaceful, knowing where he was. And the pain of loss mingles inextricably with the joy of life: it was such a delight to see the cousins together, now all young adults. As Christopher and Jack stood up to be counted among Joseph’s friends, not only his family, each of them smiling his own beautiful, special smile, a fleeting image passed through my mind of a picture of Jack, Joseph and Christopher taken twenty-two years ago in Kemble. They were all dressed in denim overalls, sitting together on the couch at Jim and Sara’s house. Of course, Christopher couldn’t actually sit yet at the age of only seven weeks, but he always looked so happy when Jim propped him up so that he could pretend to be sitting by himself with his big cousins, who were already three and two years old. Now they are young men, each of them finding his own unique path in life, and I feel my heart overflowing with love just thinking of them.
Although it was all too easy to also imagine how irritated Peter would have been with the kind of cock-ups that inevitably happen when one is twenty-something, each one of his nephews, nieces and godchildren always had a very special place in his heart, and I think I enjoyed their company all the more, imagining how much he would have enjoyed them too.
Yesterday, exactly a week and a day after Emma and Joseph’s wedding, Paddy, Seth and I went to another wedding in the countryside outside Linz. About half-way between the joyful party, where they announced their decision to get married, and the actual wedding yesterday, Hari and Simone helped me to cope with Peter’s death and to hold the memorial service for him, and I could never have done it without them. Peter loved these two so much, he was so delighted when they became a couple, his absence yesterday was acutely painful.
Such a beautiful summer day, a meadow filled with happy people and countless children of all ages – a perfect day with very dear friends. I was glad that Paddy and Seth and I were able to go to the wedding together and look after one another. There were so many people from the theater scene there, some that Paddy has made websites for, others that Seth knows from his own involvement in theater productions in Wilhering, and all of them people that I first met through Peter and his love of theater. Over the years, though, they have also become my friends, and I am grateful to Peter for leaving me friends and this special connection to theater that has so enriched our lives.
At dinner I felt quite honored that Oscar insisted on taking Paddy’s seat next to me, leaving Paddy and Seth to play musical chairs for most of the meal. As ever, Oscar is delightful company, especially when he recounted to me with his lovely wicked grin how he subversively elected to eat desert first, before the main meal, thoroughly enjoying the wordplay of “Nachspeise” and “Vorspeise” with all the pleasure that an almost-four-year-old can experience in experimenting with language. And tractors are still of the utmost importance. So Oscar continues to keep the promise he made to me in November to always tell me what is really important.
As enjoyable as it was to see everyone and be able to share in Simone and Hari’s happiness, some time after dinner, Paddy and Seth and I admitted to one another that we were all having a hard time keeping the tears at bay and feeling a bit out of sync with the rest of the wedding guests, so we quietly left early. I was happy to be able to go to the wedding, but also happy to be able to just sit quietly talking with my sons later. I think pain is easier to bear when it is shared, but perhaps it doesn’t need to be shared always and everywhere with everyone.
Next month Paddy and Seth and I plan to go to the opening of this year’s summer theater production in Wilhering, where Peter will no longer be responsible for the lights and locking up and making sure that everyone gets home safely. Nevertheless, he did have those responsibilities for so long that now we are still able to go to Wilhering to appreciate all the talented people we are fortunate enough to know and to spend another enjoyable evening with friends. So Peter’s gift for bringing people together continues to help bear the pain of his absence.